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On September 18, the Board’s GC issued GC Memo 20-14, entitled Summaries of Advice Merit Determinations Related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 Issues for the purpose of giving the public a better understanding of the GC’s approach to COVID-19 related issues.  What emerges is a clear message—while the pandemic can impact certain obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, the agency will not permit employers to use the pandemic as a sword to engage in unlawful conduct.  Under Agency guidelines, advice memos in such “go” cases cannot be released until the case is closed.  Accordingly, rather than release actual advice memos, the GC’s September 18 memo contained a series of anonymous case summaries in which an employer’s actions relating to the virus were deemed unlawful.  Over the past several months, we have reported on advice memos from the NLRB General Counsel’s Division of Advice finding various employer actions in dealing with COVID-19 issues to be permissible under the NLRA (see our recent postings here and here).  The GC’s latest memo includes a list of these earlier advice memos in which an employer’s COVID-19 conduct was found lawful.  What follows is a description of some of the issues and settings rendering these matters meritorious and therefore “go” cases.
Continue Reading GC Finds Merit in COVID-19 Related ULP Cases in GC Memo 20-14

Unions have long sought to avoid the NLRB’s election process, relying instead upon so-called “neutrality” agreements to obtain initial recognition by employers and legally enforceable rights to represent and bargain on behalf of previously unrepresented employees.  Although truly neutral pre-recognition “neutrality agreements,” i.e. those calling for an employer to be neutral on the subject of unionization and little more, are lawful, many such agreements go beyond mere neutrality and venture into actual employer support of organizing.  This may render such agreements unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act) because they interfere with employees’ rights under the Act.  Indeed, Section 8(a)(2) of the Act declares it impermissible for an employer to support a union’s organizing efforts.  Likewise, Section 8(b)(1)(A) of the Act makes it unlawful for a union to receive such support.
Continue Reading Neutrality and Labor Peace Agreements – When Its Unlawful for an Employer to Be “Too Neutral” as to Union Organizing Under the NLRA

Did an NLRB’s Regional Director abuse her discretion when she directed a mail ballot election instead of an in-person (manual) ballot election during the COVID-19 pandemic?  Though not getting the attention it deserves, this is an extremely important issue going to the very integrity of the Board’s representation process.  Manual balloting has long been the Board’s preferred manner of conducting an election because mail balloting is held under less controlled conditions and, thus, more prone to irregularities.  Moreover, mail ballot elections may result in lower employee election participation.  Most importantly to employers, mail ballot elections also generally favor unions.
Continue Reading The Board Weighs In on the COVID Mail Ballot Controversy

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers have been forced to conduct staff layoffs as businesses were closed in compliance with shelter-in-place orders and subsequently rehire employees as lockdown restrictions have been lifted. One concern employers should bear in mind is how the layoffs and later rehiring of employees impact the enforceability of any previously agreed upon restrictive covenant agreements.
Continue Reading 1st Circ. Holds Non-Compete Agreement Unenforceable Against Fired and Rehired Employee

On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) issued its much-awaited decision in General Motors, LLC (GM), 369 NLRB No. 127 (2020), in which it held that abusive or inappropriate workplace speech by employees engaged in protected concerted or union activity (PCA) is not protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act) and that employers may discipline workers for engaging in such conduct, provided, the discipline is not shown to be retaliation for protected conduct.
Continue Reading Sticks and Stones…The NLRB Rethinks Its Position on Abusive Workplace Speech by Employees While They Are Engaged in Protected Concerted and Union Activities

Most employers wrestling with COVID-19 related employment law issues aren’t paying much attention to the labor law issues arising out of the pandemic.  Indeed, because most U.S. employers are non-union, many operate under the mistaken belief that they fall outside the reach of the National Labor Relations Act (Act or NLRA) and don’t have to concern themselves with labor law compliance.  However, the NLRA protects almost all private sector employees regardless of whether they are union-represented or not.  Accordingly, except for those employing agricultural employees or workers covered by the Railway Labor Act, both unionized and union-free employers are subject to the NLRA and must conform their personnel policies, practices and decision-making to the Act.
Continue Reading NLRA “Advice” All Employers Should Consider in a COVID World

Last August, we wrote about three important new rules that the National Labor Relations Board (Board or NLRB) was proposing to issue.  As proposed, the new rules reversed existing Board case handling practices and/or case law and essentially codified certain substantive changes in the Board’s law through the formal rulemaking process.  Because these changes were slated to be the subject of formal rulemaking, once enacted, they could neither be ignored by the Board nor reversed or modified in future Board case decisions.  Rather, in order to change or reverse them, the Agency would be required to go through the formal procedures of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).  Having now passed through the APA’s public notice and comment process, these new rules are now final and scheduled to take effect on July 31.
Continue Reading AFL-CIO Sues the Board Over New Rules – AGAIN

On July 6, and after consulting with the Board’s Regional Directors (“RDs”) and other of the Agency’s internal stakeholders, the NLRB’s General Counsel (GC) issued Memorandum GC 20-10 offering suggested protocols for the RDs to follow as a way of returning to manual elections in light of the ongoing pandemic.  Before COVID-19, the overwhelming majority of National Labor Relations Board-conducted representation elections were done manually.  Board agents typically came to an employer’s place of business, set up a voting booth and employees were allowed to vote en masse on whether or not they wished to be represented by a union by manually marking a paper ballot.  Elections were run in this manner because the workplace was where almost all of the employees were physically present and maximum employee participation in the election process could be assured.  In addition to providing a level election playing field favoring neither management nor labor, and minimizing the Board’s physical oversight of the voting process, manual voting guarantees that elections can be held under laboratory conditions by greatly minimizing the risks of inappropriate conduct that could adversely affect the outcome of an election.
Continue Reading Will the NLRB GC’s “Suggested” Manual Election Protocols Matter?

On June 23, the National Labor Relations Board’s (Board or NLRB) issued a decision in Mountaire Farms, Inc., 5-RD-256888 in which the Board granted review of a Regional Director’s decision applying the Board’s contract bar doctrine, finding that the case presented substantial issues warranting the NLRB’s review and announcing its intention to establish a schedule for the filing of briefs on review and inviting amicus briefs.  On July 7, the Board acted on that intention and issued a Notice and Invitation To File Briefs in the case (Notice).
Continue Reading Board Invites Briefs and Signals a Possible Shift in Its Contract Bar Rules